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Living with in-laws

Is not always a fairy tale

In India, recipe unlike in Western countries, sale when a woman decides to mouth the words “I do,” she often has to accept her husband’s family, too. I won’t get into the origins of the tradition of a new bride moving into the home of her husband’s parents, other than to say that it’s very much the norm in our beloved state and nation. For young women, this experience runs the entire gamut from warm haven to living hell.

Let’s listen to what some ladies – and a few men – here in Goa have to say about the issue. With the exception of the experts I interviewed, I’ve changed the name of each of these folks to protect their privacy (and their relationship with the offending inlaw!)

Sangeeta:

“I don’t like staying at my husband’s home, but I am forced to. He is based out of Goa. My in-laws seem to poke their nose in everyone’s business; where I am, what I am doing, where I am going, what I should wear, what my baby should wear, what my baby should call me, what I should cook…..”

“I have a very good relationship with my husband. We discuss all matters over the phone or email and take decisions. But such interference from in-laws can be very annoying.”

Reshma:

“I am not happy. My in-laws want me to take over the entire household responsibilities when I have a teaching job. My husband is onboard the ship. My sister-in-law who is already married couple of years back is putting up here when she has a home of her own. My in-laws cater to all her needs, refusing to consult me on any household decisions.”

 

Jasmine:

 “My husband holds a job in a private company. We are staying at his ancestral home. His parents are forever whining about my style of getting household things done. I find that quite frustrating. I love my job and I really love the time that I am away from my in-laws. Who would want to hear complaints especially when one is tired and needs a good rest?”

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Of course mothers in law have their side of the story as well. Let’s hear from one of them, 59-year-old Natalie:

 “Both our young daughter-in-laws don’t help us out with any of the household duties. They remain aloof most of the time. I could use some help in the kitchen and other household chores.”

“If I question them about it, they don’t like it and are off to their mothers’ homes. Now that’s quite a difficult matter to handle especially when everyone asks ‘Your daughter-in-law doesn’t stay here anymore?’”

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To be sure, not all women share the same monster-in-law opinion. Here’s a case of a lady who adored her husband’s mother.

Jennifer:

“When I got married about thirty years back, my mother-in-law was very helpful. I was a working woman and she understood that despite the fact that she was hardly educated. She would help with the cooking and looked after my kids. Just before she passed away (more than a decade back), she told me that the responsibility of the whole home rests on my shoulders and to take good care of the family.”

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It’s not common, but at times it’s the man who stays at his wife’s parents’ home. In such situations, misunderstandings and complications emerge less frequently. Though most men would prefer to be on their home turf, several siblings (especially brothers) in the family might drive some men to stay at their wives’ homes. Here’s a guy who’s living happily in that situation.

Benson:

“We are five brothers in the family. I am the eldest. I moved out of my ancestral home after my marriage. I have a great job, a good wife, and two kids. It is always best for one sibling to stay at home, while others find a place of their own …”

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Sociologists say that a large percentage of married women rate troubles with their mother-in-law as a major bone of contention, with sex and money being lower-rated areas of contention.

A study by the Co-operative Legal Services this year found interfering in-laws as among the top ten reasons for marriage breakdowns in Britain, with 11 percent of those polled blaming interfering in-laws for their marriage breakdown.

In this year in May, local dailies flashed news about a husband who along with his parents was booked in a suicide case of his wife in Ponda. Investigations revealed that the trio was harassing her for dowry since marriage.

In another similar case last year, Ponda police had registered a case against the husband and in-laws of a woman who had ended her life at Shiroda barely four months after her marriage. A similar incident was recently reported by a woman from Curchorem.

Psychologist Clifford DeSilva believes recently married couples should live on their own for a while whenever possible, so they can get used to each other and consolidate their relationship.

“In the Indian context, the word ‘healthy relationship’ and in-laws don’t go together,” he says. “It is very difficult. In India, when a woman gets married to a man, she also gets married to his family.”

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Dr. Charlane Pereira e Rebello is a psychologist based in Navelim